April 6 (Calcutta Tube): EKTI TARAR KHONJE (Stars Never Sleep) is an upcoming Bengali Filmby Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. The Bengali film will be released in USA and Canada by Databazaar Media Ventures, an extension of USA’s leading online printer supplies retailer Databazaar.com. Aniruddha Roy Choudhury’s two feature films have fetched National Awards, bringing him into the national limelight, and some more. Yet, he chose to hand over the directorial mantle of his next production under his banner of Screenplay Films to cinematographer Avik Mukherjee, who has won several National Awards for Best Cinematography over the years. He won it for 2008 too, for the cinematography of Antaheen. The name of the film is Ekti Tarar Khonje (Stars Never Sleep) which is as metaphorical a title as it is a literal journey for the ordinary hero headed towards an extraordinary destination – stardom. Or, is it something else? The story, the way the team states it, in précis-style, is about a young man from Chandanagore, a small suburban town, who arrives in Kolkata to realise his big dreams in a big city. He arrives at a sprawling mansion in the northern parts of the city that once took pride in its aristocratic roots but is now reduced to a ghost of its former self. The house lets out rooms on rent and the strange collection of tenants and the eccentric landlord who quotes from Shakespeare and plays on the esraaj, an almost obsolete string instrument, make up the characters in the film.
Avik has assembled a wonderful ensemble of actors comprised of comparative newcomers like model-turned-actor Shayon Munshi, veteran actor Dhritimaan Chatterjee, danseuse-actress-choreographer Tanusree Shankar, veteran actor Biplab Chatterjee, rising actor Rudraneel Ghosh and theatre person Anindo Banerjee. The casting coup is Arpita Chatterjee, wife of Prosenjit, who makes a comeback to films after seven long years. “I play Rani, a small town girl who comes looking for a job in the city. I stay with my aunt (Tanusree Shankar) who is a tenant in this sprawling house. Ramapishi is a disciplined school-teacher who has a very good bonding with her niece. Rani is a bold girl who does not believe that marriage is the be-all and end-all of a woman’s existence. She is very ambitious and achievement-oriented. This is a radical character for a woman within Bengali cinema. I have had to learn to strum the guitar for the film and let me tell you that it was not an easy job,” says the beautiful Arpita, quite at home after the hiatus. Shayon Munshi has been stripped of his glamorous image for the character he plays in Ekti Tarar Khonje, which, he felt, was tough but working under Avik’s directorial wand made things appear easy. A last-minute addition to the film is a brief guest appearance by Dev, a top-notcher in Bengali cinema today who plays himself in the film.
Aniruddha Roy Choudhury and exhibitor-distributor Arijit Dutta are backing Avik with their pooled resources. Avik is doubling up as DOP. One of the famous Laha Baris, the one on Amherst Street, formed the main backdrop for the film. Avik and his friend Madhuja Mukherjee, who teaches Film Studies at Jadavpur University, have done the script together. They have also worked on the costumes for the film. “The idea of making a psychological thriller on the Bengali underworld has been on my mind mainly because this genre almost does not exist in Bengali cinema. I wanted several characters film who would contribute significantly to the film’s story. Dhritimaan Chatterjee has portrayed the landlord strangely trapped in the time-warp of the 19th century. Biplab Chatterjee has done the role of his friend.”
Prabuddha Banerjee composed the musical score and Chandril and Anindya of Chandrabindoo, who won the National Award for Antaheen have composed the lyrics. Indraneel Ghosh is art director and Arghyakamal Mitra will edit the film and is also creative consultant. Ekti Tarar Khonje is expected to hit the theatres in mid-May.
By Shoma A. Chatterji